Monday, May 25, 2009

When I got out of bed this morning my hygrometer registered 80%. I like that word - hygrometer. I was unaware of the word until just recently when I began checking "the thing" which has existed in my home for many years. We have this cool thing that includes a thermometer, a barometer and "the thing" that tells humidity. I guess I finally looked to see what "the thing" was called and that is when I discovered the word hygrometer. I am trying to figure out why I like it, but I cannot come up with a good reason. It must just be because I like words and, to me, it is a new word. I once took a class titled Etymology. I think I took it because the word itself intrigued me and, wouldn't you know, it means the study of words! I loved that class. So if I had gone to college, I wonder if there was a field of study involving Etymology?

But back to the 80% reading on my hygrometer.

I grew up with humidity and remember it being sort of a bad word. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." Minnesotans say that all the time. I learned the truth of that statement when I moved to Idaho where there is virtually no humidity. My first year there I spent boatloads of money on lotion, just trying to prevent my skin from flaking off my body. Summer temperatures in Idaho are generally in the 90's and sometimes a little over 100. Due to the arid climate that never felt bad, in fact at the time it was downright wonderful. I acclimated pretty fast. I had only been there a couple of years when one day I thought it was feeling particularly humid. I checked someplace (I didn't yet own a hygrometer) and found that the humidity that day was 14%. And I felt it! I was amazed. Then I spent four months (summer months!) in Virginia. Upon my return to Idaho several people, probably Idaho natives, asked me "Did you hate the humidity?" I could tell they fully expected me to say "Yes, it was awful" and then we could dialog about what an awful place Virginia is and how Idaho really is practically heaven. When I replied "No, I loved the humidity" that generally ended the conversation. Their lips pursed and you could see in their eyes that they thought my next move ought to be to an insane-asylum.

I am now entering my 3rd summer in Virginia and for some crazy, unknown reason, I am still loving the humidity. I love it for my skin. (I think it minimizes some of the wrinkles!) but in some vague way I keep thinking the humidity makes me feel more alive. Maybe some of the cells in my body had withered away from lack of moisture and they are now coming back to life. (What a strange thought!) Admittedly, most of the summer it will be too hot and humid to have the windows open, but for now I open them as wide as I can, as often as I can, which includes opening the house up at night. So as I walked across the wood floor this morning, on my way to the hygrometer, the floor literally felt moist under my feet, and there was a spot where it felt as if the wood was bowed just a bit. I flashed back to my most beloved house. It was a modest little place built in 1905. Among the many things I loved about that house were the wood floors. They were made of pine, original to the house. The floors were put in with round wooden pegs. We were told by the people from whom we bought the house that the floors should never be sanded and refinished or those pegs would be ruined and hence the whole floor would be ruined. The boards were varying widths. They had dips and divots and the most amazing patina of time.

When we purchased our current house we were advised that, for the sake of the floors, we should never leave the windows open. Humidity and (relative) dryness, expansion and contraction, are not good for the wood floors. Sorry, good for the floors or not, I open my windows as often as possible, all year long. I looked at the floors this morning as I thought about the humidity and I remembered the wood floors from 1905. I wondered, in 90 years will this floor look as wonderful as those? These are "perfect" floors: all the same width, uniformly stained to a nice color. Boring. I must say that. I cannot help it. This floor, in all of it's new perfection, has no character, no uniqueness, nothing that makes it special. The dips and divots in the floor I loved were caused by things that should not have happened. They caused what many would consider imperfections. The patina could only be achieved through the passage of time. To some that floor would have no value because of it's condition. To me that was the perfect, most beautiful floor imaginable.

And this is my life! It is marked by things that perhaps should not have happened; it's appearance is changing with the passage of time. Little by little, a dip here and a divot there, I am being turned into something beautiful and valuable. No one looking for perfection will ever find beauty in me, but someone who appreciates character and uniqueness might find me captivating.


Mrs. Sinta said...

Great piece of writing.

I loved your 1905 house, as well. I still regret not having taken photos on that beautiful candlelit Christmas which we celebrated there. The memory will have to do.

Todd said...

Very well written blog. I like the sentiments expressed. I bet I could have sanded that floor without ruining it! I am sure those pegs could have been replaced if need be.

bristowmom said...

Thanks for the nods on the writing.

Mrs. Sinta, I have photos - someplace. Someday I might find them! I think we even took a couple pics on Christmas.

Todd, I've no doubt you have the skill to sand those floors, but it would have ruined them! I loved them just the way they were. My guess is you understand that and you're just messing with me.

R said...

I am a humidity geek too. Love it. I get the same pursed lipped expression at my response.